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Ermita raises possibility of political pardon to Honasan, Trillanes

by AJLPP Thursday, Jun. 21, 2007 at 9:16 PM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Malacañang yesterday floated the possibility of Presi-dent Arroyo granting senators-elect Gregorio Honasan and Antonio Trillanes IV political amnesty in the spirit of reconciliation, good governance and national progress, the Philippine News Agency (PNA) quoted Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as saying yesterday. In his regular media briefing this afternoon in Malacañang, Ermita was said to have cited the President’s policy of extending her hand of reconciliation to detractors of her administration, including armed rebels and political leaders.

Ermita raises possibility of political pardon to Honasan, Trillanes

Palace dangles amnesty carrot to ‘mutineers’


Manila-- Malacañang yesterday floated the possibility of Presi-dent Arroyo granting senators-elect Gregorio Honasan and Antonio Trillanes IV political amnesty in the spirit of reconciliation, good governance and national progress, the Philippine News Agency (PNA) quoted Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as saying yesterday.

In his regular media briefing this afternoon in Malacañang, Ermita was said to have cited the President’s policy of extending her hand of reconciliation to detractors of her administration, including armed rebels and political leaders.

“President Arroyo’s policy since day one of her administration has been to push the peace process. And peace process means making peace with those fighting the government,” he said.

Noting that in previous years, the national leadership extended its hand of peace to anti-government personalities, Ermita said he does not see any reason this same gesture cannot be extended to political leaders opposed to the President.

“So there is a high probability that indeed, in the spirit of reconciliation and in the spirit of making things move forward, in the name of

good governance for the sake of our people, there is nothing that would prevent the President — and I think the President may just do that (grant amnesty to Honasan and Trillanes),” Ermita said.

Ermita, however, explained it was up to the courts trying the cases against the two senators-elect to decide if the charges against them would be considered extinguished with their election to public office, or if they have to wait for the courts’ ruling on their cases, PNA reported.

But sources in the opposition camp contacted by the Tribune said the Ermita statement appears to be more of a “floater” or that this could be another attempt by Malacañang to package a “new image” for Mrs. Arroyo and her Team Unity bets after thier stinging defeat at the polls.

The political amnesty Ermita speaks of, however, cannot just apply to Honasan and Trillanes who are both facing coup d’etat charges, and would have to include all the alleged mutineers now detained. Also, the President cannot unilaterally grant amnesty to anyone, as congressional concurrence is necessitated.

Esperon's Dillema

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has, for his part, taken a 180 degree turn on his position that insisted on the military having custody of Trillanes, saying he will be seeking the intervention of a civilian court on the custodial issue of Trillanes, who is now detained at the Marine brig in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Esperon said it is now up to the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to rule on whether Trillanes should remain under military confinement.

“I am writing the Honorable Oscar Pimentel clarifying whether he wants me to continue having custodial authority over Senator Trillanes,” Esperon said in a radio interview. “Considering his change of status from a military officer to a civilian, the question has arisen whether the Senator-elect continues to be subject to confinement in a military detention facility,” as stated in his letter to the RTC judge.

He added that “if he (Pimentel) wants, I can continue (having Trillanes under military custody). If he does not, he has just to rule and I will follow the official ruling,” Esperon said.

Esperon admitted he had a “dilemma” on his hands over the custody issue following Trillanes’ proclamation as the 11th senator in last month’s mid-term election.

“This is my dilemma as chief of staff. I want to let him go, but I also want to protect the interest of the AFP including the people in General Court Martial,” the military chief said.

AFP Public Information chief, Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said they expect the court to decide on the letter soon since the Trillanes custody issue is giving the military a dilemma.

The AFP Chief also assured the camp of Trillanes that even if he continues to be detained in the brig, the senator will be allowed to attend Senate session provided he secures permission from the military.

Should the court decide to remove Trillanes from military custody, Esperon said his new custodians should be ordered to ensure his appearance at his court martial hearings.

“We are referring it to the court. This is unprecedented, which is why we are seeking the decision of the court,” Bacarro told reporters in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo Wednesday.

A senior military officer who requested not to be named said that Esperon should stop commenting on the Trillanes custodial issue and allow the proper courts to decide on the case.

“That is his (blunder). He should stop commenting on this one and let the proper authorities make a decision.” The source said.

Trillanes is an elected senator of the land and he has a mandate to serve,” the senior officer pointed out.

Bacarro said Esperon’s move should not be interpreted as the military softening on Trillanes, the first alleged coup leader to win a Senate seat while under detention.

Earlier, Esperon was adamantly against even allowing Trillanes to attend Senate sessions and also thumbed down suggestions by Trillanes that he will be holding office in the brig, if he will not be allowed to attend Senate sessions.

At his scheduled proclamation, a handcuffed Trillanes arrived two hours late due to his failure to secure Esperon’s written permission to attend the ceremony at the Commission on Election office in Manila.

Santiago's Tirades Against Trillanes

Administration Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a staunch ally of Mrs. Arroyo, said Trillanes will likely remain in jail even after Congress resumes sessions next month, following a landmark Supreme Court decision.

She cited the case of People v. Jalosjos, where the SC ruled that a convict in jail pending appeal and later elected representative, had to stay in jail even after winning the elections.

But Trillanes has not been convicted as yet.

“Just because a detention prisoner has won as senator does not mean that he should be free to attend Senate sessions, because that would be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution,” Santiago said.

“All persons charged with nonbailable offenses, such as the crime of coup d’etat, have to remain in jail. Election as senator does not entitle a detention prisoner to special treatment. Otherwise, the result is what the law calls an invidious discrimination,” she said.

She quoted the Jalosjos ruling, thus: “Allowing accused to attend congressional sessions and committee meetings will virtually make him a free man with all the privileges appurtenant to the position. Such an aberrant situation not only elevates accused’s status to that of a special class, it would also be a mockery of the purposes of the correction system.”

But Trillanes is ready to have a face-to-face encounter with Mrs. Arroyo, whom he wants impeached, during Congress’ formal opening of sessions, to listen to her State of the Nation address (Sona).

Trillanes’ spokesman Sonny Rivera said, during a chance interview with Senate reporters, Trillanes looks forward to attending the Sona as he is planning to deliver a contra-Sona in the upper chamber.

He assured however that the first-time senator and youngest member of the upper chamber for the 14th Congress, is not out to create a scene or make a move to embarrass Mrs. Arroyo while she delivers her speech, saying there are protocols to be followed, but added that Trillanes cannot be expected to be applauding or joining those who will applaud the President.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon had earlier said Trillanes should not only be allowed to attend Senate sessions but also attend Congress’ opening as their presence during joint sessions is a “constitutional duty.”

“It’s a constitutional duty to hear the President deliver her Sona,” Biazon said. With Gina Peralta-Elorde, Xander Bergonia, Angie M. Rosales and PNA

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